Religion and Spirituality

The Effect of Education on Religion

While searching for a current event for one of my teaching courses, I came across “Losing My Religion” from the New York Times. Miles Kimball, a professor of economics at the University of Michigan, teamed up with a few colleagues and tracked roughly 26,000 American students for six years, noting their religious observances and attitudes. At the end of the study, they crunched all of the numbers and determined a religiosity scale of 1 to 100.

How important do students think religion is in their lives? For scale, Miles Kimball says, if the difference between the religiosity of people living in the Bible Belt and those in the rest of the country equals 100, then the effect of majoring in a particular subject would be:

-47 Social science

-28 Humanities

-24 Physical science/math

-14 Engineering

-13 Biology

0 No college

+2 Business

+10 Other

+16 Vocational

+23 Education

Humanities and social sciences teach the ideas behind postmodernism–relative truth and the like–which in turn teach students to understand relative truth and notions of authority.

Being a literature (soon-to-be anthropology?) major working towards a teaching certification, I don’t find the article terribly mind-blowing. In my experience, despite education sort-of having ties to the social sciences–it should, anyway!–many people who enter the teaching field tend to have a conservative background in the first place, and teachers who go on to earn EdD’s and such are usually more conservative, as well–’round these parts, anyway!

What say you? Would you have, perhaps, expected the physical sciences to have a greater impact than the humanities?

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  1. exarch
    November 13, 2009 at 5:42 am —

    Yes, I would.
    But then, perhaps people in the physical sciences aren’t consciously thinking about the importance of religion in their lives as much as people in the social sciences.

    What’s more, the question is asking whether religion is important to them, not whether or not they believe in god (i.e. I still assume the atheism rate to be the highest in biology and physical sciences).

  2. James K
    November 19, 2009 at 3:02 am —

    The social sciences includes economics as well. Economists become very familiar with the idea of very complex systems that form without intelligent design, much as biologists do. That would nudge things in the direction of atheism as well.

  3. November 29, 2009 at 11:34 pm —

    I actually thought that the people in physical sciences were more likely than people in biological sciences to be religious so that was a surprise there.

    But the humanities thingy makes sense. You get exposed to all the other cultures and that can serve as a severe blow to your beliefs.

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